Monday, December 31, 2007

Sam Moskowitz on Dreams in the Witch House

Moskowitz, like Forest J Ackerman, had a leading role as historian of the genre. Some of this has passed on to others, but his stature is still strong.



H. P. Lovecraft

One of the paradoxes of Lovecrates admirers is the annoyance they have felt when that talented author was referred to as a major science fiction writer as well as a master of the supernatural. Despite the undeniable evidence of The Colour Out of Space, The Whisperer in Darkness, The Shadow Out of Time, to name three major works, they have particularly rankled when shown how much closer to science fiction such masterpieces by him as ne Dunwich Horror, The Call of CthiAhu, The Shunned House and even The Temple were than to the supernatural.

The paradox rests in the strong efforts some of these same people have made to show that The Dreams in the Witch-House is as much science fiction as it is supernatural. They received no small assistance in this effort from H. P. Lovecraft who in the context of the story referred to Einstein's theories, the space-time continuum, "the elements of high atomic weight which chemistry was absolutely powerless to identify." The possibility of stepping from the third into the fourth dimension and back again, extra-dimensional geometry was considered, and finally the statement "the alien curves and spirals of some ethereal vortex which obeyed laws unknown to the physics and mathematics of any conceivable universe," sounded a note of frustration.
The truth way that H. P. Lovecraft did not believe in the supernatural. Never did and never would to the day of his death and felt that many of his readers didn't and attempted to offer the possibility that there was some scientific rather than supernatural explanation for witchcraft to make his stories more convincing.

In this he succeeded, for though The Dreams In The Witch-House cannot be said to be a "forgotten" masterpiece of horror, it is certainly far too infrequently encountered in anthologies of the genre.

Sam Moskowitz

Great Untold Stories of Fantasy and Horror, ed. Andre Norton & Sam Moskowitz, Pyramid, 1969

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